One Hundred Literary Rumors

By Blake Butler


Gertrude Stein, content in the knowledge that her monthly check from the New York Mets would arrive soon. Photo by Carl Van Vechten.

Lydia Davis can’t stand the sight of children wearing bike helmets.

Richard Brautigan never crossed state lines except on foot.

Jack London loved braiding men’s hair.

Matthew Rohrer claims never to have been inside or to have seen an ad for Chili’s.

Jack Kerouac was addicted to licking stamps.

Jhumpa Lahiri has collected more than 200 autographed head shots of Al Pacino.

“’Wow, cool sky!’” was the original first sentence of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.

Gertrude Stein was on the payroll of the New York Mets.

Virginia Woolf passed the bar exam in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Maine.

T. C. Boyle ghostwrote the screenplay for Mrs. Doubtfire.

Gordon Lish religiously eats at the Applebee’s in Times Square on the 13th and 18th of every month.

Michiko Kakutani‘s Gmail password is wolfdickfourteen.

Barry Hannah hated the sight of charcoal.

Gary Lutz has beaten Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! more than 400 times.

From age eight to 18, Ann Beattie earnestly believed she was born wrapped in a shower curtain.

Dave Eggers bathes in almond milk every Sunday and video-records it.


Eggers and his flawless skin. Photo via.

Thomas Bernhard hated the color blue until the creation of Cookie Monster.

Angela Carter had an erotic fixation on pumping gas.

The wallpaper on Mary Jo Bang’s laptop is a photograph of Rod Stewart holding a baby up to the sun.

George Orwell wore a cock ring 24/7.

Andre Breton lost tens of thousands of dollars due to his inability to remember a flush beats a straight.

Marco Roth believes people who drive white cars are innately selfish by definition.

Samuel Beckett lost every game of chess he ever played by eventually conceding.

Karen Russell owns an original audio recording of Carmelo Anthony reading Gravity’s Rainbow aloud from beginning to end.

Joyelle McSweeney once threw a football so hard, she burst all the veins in her right arm and had to have the arm surgically replaced with a fake.

Paul Auster has responded to over 8,000 missed-connections ads on Craigslist under various pseudonyms.

Though he can see fine, Michael Martone prefers to read braille.

Ron Silliman started a Kickstarter campaign under a pseudonym, attempting to raise funds to buy the RZA’s childhood home.

Italo Calvino peed sitting down.


Calvino, peeing. Photo via.

Cormac McCarthy dresses up as “sexy Betsy Ross” on Halloween every year.

Alice Munro has never looked directly at the moon.

Walter Benjamin would break out in hives upon contact with leather.

Alice Notley auditioned for Saturday Night Live by performing the climax of Saving Private Ryan as a one-woman show, was offered a spot in the cast, then declined.

David Mitchell suffers from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

Mary Ruefle once bested more than 350 competitors in an air bass guitar competition, exclusively performing songs from Metallica’s Black Album.

Harry Mathews will eat chocolate only if it's been handed to him by a child.

Philip Roth smokes three packs of Marlboro Ultra Lights a week but never inhales.

Cheryl Strayed suffered a three-week phase where she could eat nothing but chopped walnuts.

If there were any books visible in the room with him, Robert Walser couldn’t sleep.

Anne Carson dated Adam Sandler briefly while he was in college.

Ben Lerner can’t ride up escalators without covering his face; down escalators are fine.

Mary Gaitskill’s great-great-grandfather invented the beer helmet.

Robert Olen Butler collects ceramic cows.

Bill Bryson owns the wreckage of the automobile Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes died in.

Raymond Roussel worshipped Saturn.

Christine Schutt will only eat with plastic utensils.

Frederick Barthelme was brought on as a general advisor during the recording of Cradle of Filth’s Midian.

Ben Mirov is the heir to the Crayola fortune.

Jane Smiley is privately obsessed with beating the world record for most body piercings. 

Ha Jin only reads in the nude.

John Barth has a tramp stamp of his own name in cursive.

Patrick Somerville owns 18 miniature schnauzers all named Olivier.

Russell Edson appears as a walk-on extra in Three Men and a Little Lady.

Joy Williams weeps while cutting her toenails.

Lorrie Moore won’t play Monopoly unless she can be both the banker and the iron.

Donald Hall installed 17 “false doors” on the exterior of his home to alleviate his paranoia of sudden home invasion.

Steve Almond’s childhood nickname was “Winkles.”

Marilynne Robinson wrote Housekeeping in four days.

Susan Sontag listened to Tupac’s Makaveli every morning in the shower.

Grace Paley believed the NBA championships are staged each year as an elaborate hoax on the American people.

Rick Bass used to have his tongue pierced.

H. P. Lovecraft had a three-legged cocker spaniel named Hyphenation Battle Axe Endorphin Baby.

Chris Kraus and Axl Rose speak regularly on the phone.

Adam Wilson is deathly afraid of the Mona Lisa.

William T. Vollmann shops exclusively on eBay.

J. K. Rowling lost all the money she earned from the first four books of Harry Potter due to slot-machine addiction.


Rowling, penniless, tries to maintain a positive demeanor as she accepts her honorary degree from the University of Aberdeen. Photo via.

Ben Brooks writes with a wolf pelt wrapped around his lower body like a gown and purple gloves covered in glitter.

The webmaster of McSweeney’s online store is Wiccan.

Alain Robbe-Grillet shredded at BMX.

Matthew Zapruder will only eat with his left hand.

Ken Kesey dictated all of his novels in sign language to a deaf mute who transcribed them.

Deb Olin Unferth ghostwrote Rabbit at Rest.

After hitting his head on a stone bench, Charles Baxter spent a week of his life believing he was Robert Rauschenberg’s studio assistant, disfiguring his home in the process.

Jay McInerney always wears a Band-Aid on his inner right thigh despite there being no wound there.

Cynthia Ozick is a member of the NRA.

The cover of Everything Is Illuminated featured a photo of the author’s mom praying until it was switched at the last minute.

Nicholson Baker once stood choking a plastic lamb in the parking lot of a Walmart for 12 hours to win a bet.

Adam Robinson owns an abandoned planetarium in Greenville, South Carolina.

Martin Amis writes all of his capital P's backwards and upside down.

Joe Wenderoth runs Tyler, The Creator’s Twitter account.

William Gass discovered what he would turn in as the manuscript for The Tunnel in a wheat field behind a strip mall.

Aaron Kunin breeds sheep for a living.

Maggie Nelson was raised in a household where the word doorbell meant "Do you mind if I eat this?"

Philip K. Dick despised coffee tables.

Doris Lessing once ate 47 Soft Taco Supremes in a single sitting for charity.

Sam Pink’s outie belly button is four feet long.

Abraham Smith was invited by Bill Clinton every Christmas during his presidency to give a private reading to Chelsea Clinton at the White House.

José Saramago and Clive Owen did the sex.

David Markson slept on the floor on a bed of leaves.

William Gaddis died wearing 14 nightgowns of a pale-blue shade that matched the room’s wallpaper and carpet.

A. M. Homes's initials actually stand for Absorbefacient Maschalephidrosis.

Adrienne Rich eats pistachios in the shell.

Nam Le has a birthmark the size and shape of an iPhone on the sole of his right foot.

Gary Shteyngart types using only his thumbs and index fingers.

Robert Pinget had a recurring dream of playing second-string cornerback for the Detroit Lions despite his waking vitriolic hatred for the game.

Albert Camus slept with a stuffed giraffe.

Z. Z. Packer helped design the alpha and beta editions of Magic: The Gathering.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was physically unable to fold laundry.

Junot Diaz knits his own underpants.

Emily Dickinson’s coffin is full of powdered milk.


The marker for a powdered milk resevoir in Amherst, Massachusetts. Photo via.

Previously by Blake Butler - The March Madness of Fast Food

@blakebutler

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